Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest of Kazakhstan cities.
Almaty has its origins in an earlier settlement near the site of the present city, the largest in Kazakhstan, and known as Almatu. There are to possible origins of the name: either this represents the Kazakh word for apple and means 'full of apples' or is from the Russian Amma-Ata 'father of the apples'.
Shymkent comes from two Sogdian words, this the language spoken in the Central Asian area and an Eastern Iranian tongue, where chim kent refers to 'the city in the grasslands'.
Karaganda is derived from the Caragana arborescns, the most abundant flora in the area.
Astana has only been named as such since 1998 and simply means 'capital city'. Earlier, from 1992, it was known as Akmola. or 'white grave', and prior to that Tselinograd 'city of tselina' from 1961 and as Akmolinsk since its founding in 1830.
Pavlodar refers to itself as 'the city of Paul', chosen to mark the birth of the Grand Duke Pauk Alexandrovich of Russia.
Aktobe is from the Kazakh ak teoe or 'white hill', a reminder of the high ground on which the settlement was founded.
Oral is the Kazakh translation of Ural'sk, itself named from the river which, in turn, took its name from the Ural Mountains, this thought to come from the Turkic for 'stone belt'.
Petropavl, founded in 1752, is named after two saints, the apostles Peter and Paul.
Kyzylorda had earlier been known as Ak-Mechet or 'the white mosque'. It's present name is a Kazakh rendition of its Turkic name meaning 'red city'.
Aktau is a Kazakh name referring to it being overlooked by the cliffs, it means 'white mountain'.
Temirtau takes its name from the Kazakh for 'iron mountain', previously known as Zhaur, a reference to the hill on the opposite side of the river.
Atyrau is the Kazakh for 'island', although in truth this is simply a bank in the mouth of the Ural River.
Ekibastuz is derived from the name of the nearby lake, itself coming from eki bas tuz 'the two-headed lake' and a reference to its shape.
Kokshetau comes from the Kazakh meaning 'a smoky-blue mountain'.
Zhanaozen means 'new river' in Kazakh.
Baikonur is best known as the launching site for the Russian space programme. The name comes from the Kazakh for 'wealthy brown', a reference to fertile land which produces a variety of fauna and in excellent quantities. Previously the name had been Tyuratam, a name still used by the railway station and one meaning 'Tore's grave''. Tore, or formally Tore-Baba, was a noble and descendant of Genghis Khan.
Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.